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Florida’s OL Taking Shape

By Anthony Richards
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The Gators' offensive line is finally beginning to take the shape that Will Muschamp had in mind when he arrived on campus.

“Having people with experience on the line gives us that trust factor to protect [Driskel]. We’ve played a year together and now we trust each other.”
~Florida OL Jon Halapio

The Florida Gators' offense accomplished something last season that it had not had in eight years: it produced a 1,000-yard rusher.  Mike Gillislee broke the mark in the regular season finale against rival Florida State, and after the bowl game, finished the year with 1,152 yards on the ground.

Will Muschamp came to Florida wanting to establish the running game, and, having coached previously at LSU and Auburn, is fully aware that games in the SEC are won at the line of scrimmage.

Muschamp’s impact on the team has already been seen on the defensive side of the ball, as the Gators have been ranked in the top 10 nationally in each of his two seasons.  Now the focus shifts to the offensive side of the ball where Muschamp’s game plan is beginning to take shape along the offensive line.

The offense has been very run-oriented since Muschamp took over as head coach.  Florida has chosen to run the ball an average of 16 more times a game the last two seasons.  Despite Muschamp’s desire to establish the run, a lack of playmakers at the receiver position has led to this unbalanced approach.

The Gators have a trio of highly-touted freshmen receivers who will look to make an immediate impact and fill the void that has limited the Florida passing game the last three seasons.
Jeff Driskel has a year of Brent Pease’s offense under his belt and Matt Jones appears to have the physical style to hold up in the SEC week in and week out.

“The sky’s the limit for Driskel,” senior offenisve lineman Jon Halapio stated.  “He doesn’t have to compete for the quarterback job now.  He knows it’s his, so he’s more focused now than ever, and I see that leadership from him.”

However, the offense will not work without the proper players along the offensive line.  Over the past two seasons, and with the help of his recruiting recruiting classes, Muschamp has developed depth along the offensive line which will help the Gators compete against some of the nation’s best defensive linemen.

The Gators are anchored in the middle with seniors Jonotthan Harrison at center and Jon Halapio at right guard.  Harrison and Halapio were each voted to the Preseason All-SEC team by the media.  They also hold the most experience on the line, accounting for 60 of the line’s 93 career starts.

“Jon is going into his third year as a starter and an outstanding leader,” Muschamp said.  “All of the tangible things you want in a football player, Jon has it, and he's a guy that I’m really excited for his senior season.”

At the tackle spots, junior Chaz Green is back at right tackle after starting 10 games last fall and eight in 2011.  Sophomore D.J. Humphries will take over at left tackle for the graduated Xavier Nixon.  Humphries was regarded as a five-star prospect coming out of high school in North Carolina and was a standout in Florida’s 2012 recruiting class.

According to Muschamp, Humphries has gained weight and is currently up from 275 pounds to between 285 and 290 pounds.

Humphries started three games as a true freshman last season and will only continue to develop the more snaps he takes.  Starting on the left side, Humphries will be saddled with the responsibility of protecting Driskel’s blind side against the elite pass rushers in the SEC.

“We've got seven guys on campus on the offensive line that have played a lot of football at Florida,” Muschamp expressed.  “You add with that Max Garcia and Tyler Moore, both guys that started at their respective universities before they came to Florida.”

Garcia, a junior who transferred from Maryland, and Moore, a sophomore who transferred from Nebraska, each sat out last season but were able to practice with the team.

A year of practice within the system provided the opportunity for each player to become familiar with the offensive schemes and build their continuity with teammates.  Garcia is expected to open the season at left guard and Moore is the first option if any injuries arise at either tackle spot.

“Having people with experience on the line gives us that trust factor to protect [Driskel],” Halapio explained.  “We’ve played a year together and now we trust each other.”

The Gators' offensive line is finally beginning to take the shape that Muschamp had in mind when he arrived on campus.  Physical players that can hold their own against some of the most athletic defensive linemen in the country and talented depth to step in when injuries hit.

“We have nine guys with Division I experience,” Muschamp said.  “That’s a far cry from where we were two years ago.”

Anthony Richards - Anthony was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla. and currently attends the University of North Florida. He is a sports journalist, with a particular passion for college football in the south and the atmosphere that surrounds it. He enjoys the classic southern combination of Bar-B-Q and a large glass of sweet tea. You can reach Anthony at